A new high-school charter is opening under the umbrella of Chula Vista Elementary School District. The high school will be housed on the small, for-profit United States University campus on Bayfront Boulevard.
Bayfront High School, as it is called, is an extension of Mueller Elementary Charter; both are located in western Chula Vista. The high school is only accepting applications for ninth graders at this time.
Although the charter is financed with public funds, students have to apply to get into the school.
The application, which is only in English online, informs the student who is applying that in the event there is not enough space, the openings will default to a lottery.
The application also informs students that if they attend Mueller elementary, or if they are currently enrolled in any Charter Alliance school, they will receive priority. A Bayfront Charter website begs the question of what schools are in the Charter Alliance.
The entrance application also asks students to write a statement. Students are to expound upon why they would find Bayfront a good fit. The answer would have to be creative, as Bayfront is only a concept at this point; advertisements for teachers for the school can be found online.
A slew of questions grouped together appear to be designed to find out if the applicant will be a high-need student: will the student be promoted this year?; has the student ever been suspended?; does the student have an attendance plan?; does the student have an IEP, (Individualized Educational Program)? — which is to say — does the student have a learning disability?
Nationwide, charter schools have been criticized for under-enrolling students with special needs.
A 2013 Reuters article by Stephanie Simon states: “Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.”
Mueller Charter has a CEO as well as a principal. The CEO, Dr. Kevin Riley, writes in a Mueller weblog called El Milagro: “Imagine a public school that has complete control over its entire $7.5 million budget. Imagine having complete authority to invest your resources any way you choose. Imagine absolute freedom from outside influence of any kind — no state bureaucracy, no meddling school district, no teachers union, no boilerplate contracts, no negotiated agreements, no political agendas, no labor force distractions, no competing agencies.”
The United State University campus, on which the Bayfront high school charter will be housed, has enjoyed a less than sterling reputation since it opened in May 2011.
In April 2013, the Reader’s Don Bauder wrote: “United States University has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $686,720, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. The school's former financial aid director, Christina Miller, pleaded guilty to falsifying loan applications so students could get Pell grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Miller will be sentenced June 27. The school, with a campus in Chula Vista, was known as InterAmerican University from 1997 to 2010, when it changed its name to United States University…”
Then, in June 2013, the accrediting commission, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, put United States University on probation. The commission “found that the University was not in compliance with elements of the four WASC Standards for Accreditation: Standard 1 (Defining Institutional Purposes and Ensuring Educational Objectives), Standard 2 (Achieving Educational Objectives through Core Functions), Standard 3 (Developing and Applying Resources and Organizational Structures to Ensure Sustainability), and Standard 4 (Creating an Organization Committed to Learning and Improvement).
According to the WASC website, an “Accreditation Visit is schedule for spring 2015 to evaluate United States University’s progress in addressing the Commission’s concerns.”
Disclosure: The author’s daughter is on the bargaining team for the Chula Vista Educators. The charter school is not a member of the bargaining unit. Also, the author of this article graduated from Mueller Elementary.